A new psychological study from Edge Hill and Soochow Universities shows the harsh reality that hanging around with your least attractive friends is the most effective way to look good in photos. 

This new study by Dr Edwin Burns and Dr Haojiang Ying, recently published on Science Direct, shows that if you and your friends are already considered very attractive then appearing in group photos will actually make you look worse than usual.  

However, if you and your friends are average or below-average attractiveness then a group photo is the best way to go and will make you look better than ever. The bottom line is that if you want to look good in photos and on social media you need to hang around with your worst looking friends.  

This proven psychology phenomenon, known as the ‘cheerleader effect’, has been widely researched over the last several years but this is the first time that group photos have been shown to have negative effects when very attractive people are put into the pictures.  

Dr Burns said: “We demonstrate that while in the majority of cases we are more attractive in groups this effect works in reverse for people with highly attractive friends, as being around really attractive people has a detrimental impact upon our appearance, especially if we are attractive ourselves.” 

The key to looking your absolute best in photos is choosing your friends wisely and only having photos with the least attractive members of your friendship group. This may sound harsh, but this is how our minds work whether we like it or not.” 

My expert advice is when you’re out with friends this summer it might be a good idea to stand next to your least attractive friends in group photos, and next time you want to update your tinder profile, get your worst looking mates together for a few photos to make sure you look your absolute best.”  

The research was carried out by asking people to rate faces in a wide variety of group photos featuring different people and locations. The results showed clearly that group photos are generally beneficial unless you and your friends are at the upper end of attractiveness.  

“The results of the study were really clear”. Edwin explained. “In all the group photos of people with unattractive friends our participants rated the faces more highly. But when we started using photos with only attractive friends the ratings dropped by around 10%.”  

This effect can be proven to work with even simple images. If the outer, ‘attractive’ faces in the image below are covered the blemishes on the middle face will start to disappear after a few seconds.  

Similar studies have been carried out worldwide, in eight different countries, with the same results seen all of them. 

Haojiang Ying from Soochow University in China said “It’s amazing that this result is so universal and shows how ingrained this effect is. It doesn’t seem to matter where in the world you are from or what your background is, group photos will always make you look better unless your friends are all very attractive people.” 

To discover the range of psychology courses available at Edge Hill, visit www.ehu.ac.uk/psychology/courses.